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HITEC Dallas Report: 50+ Hospitality Technology Innovations You Need to Know

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

When hotels began to reopen with skeleton crews mid-way through the pandemic, the broader industry started to think about hospitality technology as the key driver to running stronger businesses despite weaker resource availability. Hotel Tech Report traffic data illustrates that despite a sidelined hospitality workforce - there is more interest in hotel technology than ever before.  HTR recently publicized platform data showing 270% growth from March 2020 to 140k+ monthly hoteliers in May of 2021 (14-months into the pandemic). Vendors are innovating in lockstep with hotelier demand for new technology.  Last week our team headed to the first HITEC event since 2019 to scout the latest innovations and save you time staying up to date with recent hotel tech product launches.  This article is packed with the latest tools being developed by top tech firms to help you optimize and grow your hotel business. While researching for this article, our team reviewed 96 different product/feature launches to curate the list below based on the most exciting innovations in the market and then synthesized the top 50 innovations into six key trends. Please reach out via live chat if we've missed a critical innovation or trend! WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECAP: Leveraging tech to tackle labor issues The guest experience is getting a major digital makeover Mobile checkin is the new black Guest data management is in the spotlight Empowering commercial leaders to level up their strategy & efficiency Vendors are gearing up to help simplify payments for hoteliers   Trend #1: Leveraging tech to tackle labor issues If you ask any restaurant, retail shop or hotel owner these days 'how's it going?', their first response will likely be to tell you how difficult it is to find and retain talent.  The mass service industry layoffs and furlows at the beginning pandemic coupled with the elogated impact on the global travel industry from the Delta variant caused a mass labor exodus from the hospitality industry.  While city centers continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic, many drive market destinations in many geographies are booming so much so that some have even surpassed pre-pandemic REVPAR levels such as the California wine country and are struggling to staff back up.  Whether you're in a booming drive market destination and need labor now, or you will need it when city centers begin to recover--the labor struggle is real and tech companies have their sights set on coming to the rescue by launching new products and features to help do everything from retain your talent more effectively to manage your property with fewer staff. M3 Launches labor.  Designed for hoteliers on the go, M3’s Labor Management app, M3 Labor, allows hospitality professionals to quickly access their hotels’ labor information and adapt in real time to the labor needs of their properties. Not only do employees get up-to-date visibility of their schedules and work histories, but property managers also have access to labor variances and managing employee time details, all available in the palm of their hand. UniFocus ShiftGenius.  ShiftGenius is a unique scheduling and shift filling feature that introduces flexibility and control for employees and covers the needs of the business. Operators find coverage faster and know that the RIGHT people are filling the shifts. Hotel Effectiveness launches CoverageFinder™: Hotels are experiencing a “coverage crisis” - they cannot find the labor to address the needs of the hotel, the guests, or the team. CoverageFinder makes it easy to identify available labor from within the cross-trained hotel team, the portfolio’s “sister” hotels, and contract staffing firms. Turnover is a massive problem. The Risk Retention Dashboard identifies which associates in each department are at risk of leaving and recommends specific actions that managers can take to prevent turnover and avoid the costly impact of a lost team member. HelloShift launches a housekeeping app. Housekeeping Management app is a quick and efficient way to see at a glance the status of all of the housekeeping tasks at your hotel or property. In one view, know which rooms have been assigned and prioritized, and which rooms still need to be assigned. The quick and simple drag and drop functionality and the ability to bulk reassign rooms make housekeeping management problems a thing of the past!   Harri launches Carri Chat & Apply.  Carri is an AI-powered chatbot built to assist hiring managers in screening, accessing, and coordinating interviews with viable candidates. Carri transforms traditional job applications into meaningful conversations to engage candidates and improve talent acquisition efforts. eTip launches digital tipping product.  eTip helps hotels to better attract, retain, and motivate staff with an app-less tipping and review platform. With eTip, staff receive an increase in compensation and a boost in morale, guests enjoy better service, and managers can act on guest feedback in real time. Beekeeper launches housekeeping app.  Beekeeper Work is an intuitive app that will transform how your team tends to daily Housekeeping operations. Team members on their feet can get things done with a simple tap of their finger. No training. No I.T. set up. No corporate approvals. Just easy technology rolled out in days. And it’s available in every language too so no one gets left behind.   Trend #2: The guest experience is getting a major digital makeover While the pandemic will certainly not be looked back upon fondly, some good undoubtedly has come of it.  While there are so many areas that human interaction can add value in the guest experience, there are also so many areas that manual processes, wait times and antiquated systems have plagued the guest experience for decades and the pandemic gave the industry the nudge that it so desperately needed.  Whether that's digitizing compendiums to reduce paper waste and create interactive experiences that generate revenue, ridiculously seamless contactless grab and go stations to meet guest needs in real time or in-stay sentiment analysis to identify and recover from service glitches on the spot--vendors continue to rollout new features and tools to help you leverage technology to become one of your hotel's greatest assets when it comes to delivering a unique and differentiated guest experience. Whistle Digital Guest Book.  Whistle introduces a configurable digital guest compendium for a completely contactless experience. Hotels can now offer a rich portal and directory of information, which guests can access through messaging. Impulsify Contactless grab and go.  Impulsify announces the arrival of their completely contactless grab-and-go kiosk for lobby retail transactions. Their ShopPoP kiosk now provides a QR code to give users the option of going "Touchless" when purchasing items at their increasingly popular self-service pay stations used by the hospitality and multifamily industries. Flexkeeping Automated Daily Hotel Report.  The Automated Daily Hotel Report by Flexkeeping contains all critical information hoteliers need to know to ensure that their team is meeting their set standards. The report provides data on every department - from room service, housekeeping, and maintenance performance all the way over to guest complaints and service slips. EasyWay launches Guest Sentiment Powered by OpenAI.  EasyWay AI is now able to automatically detect guest sentiment and act accordingly. For example, if EasyWay AI identifies that a guest is happy and is a potential brand ambassador, it will automatically send them a survey on TripAdvisor, and ask them to share their amazing experiences on social media. GoMoment launches Ivy Offer.  Ivy Offer lets hoteliers extend unbeatable offers such as extended stay, late checkouts, and food & beverage offers to their guests via text messages. These offers are conversational, personalized, targetted and appropriately timed (when guests tell us they are enjoying their stay, we offer them the chance to stay an extra night at a 20% discount), resulting in repeat, incremental profit. Guests read 98% of Ivy Offer messages within 3 minutes (based on client data). Niio and Samsung debut digital art stream for public spaces. Samsung and Niio art are partnering to bring easy access to digital art on-demand to Samsung Profesional Displays to transform any screen into an engaging digital art canvas. With access to thousands of digital artworks from the world’s best artists, Samsung clients can seamlessly display individual works of their choosing or play art streams curated by mood and style, 24x7 to one or multiple sites. Turnkey solution without requiring additional hardware or rights management. Bookingwhizz Automated Guest Journey with Whatsapp. The CRM module connects directly with the PMS and/or channel manager, automates guest notifications and promotions from predesigned campaigns. The hotel or group can schedule these notifications based on their business needs. SensorFlow launches SmartREM (Smart Room Energy Management Solution).  When guests leave the room empty with the HVAC running, SensorFlow's occupancy sensors and smart thermostats communicate this data to the gateway. The gateway then uses AI to react to the real-time occupancy data and automatically switches off the HVAC or adjusts it to a more energy-efficient setting to save energy, without needing any manual intervention from hotel staff. If guests leave the room with the HVAC running and the pool/balcony doors or windows are open, the HVAC is then automatically adjusted to ensure proper ventilation and prevent condensation issues while saving energy. When SensorFlow's sensors detect that guests have returned, our gateway then automatically resets the HVAC to the guests' previous settings. VenueLytics launches 24/7 AI Smart Concierge.  VenueLytics provides industries first fully integrated 24/7 AI Smart Concierge to automate contactless guest engagement, housekeeping, maintenance and other guest requests across WiFi, WhatsApp, SMS, WebBot and Facebook Messengers. Hotelinking launches WiFiBot.  Hotelinking developed a system called WiFiBot that automatically solves the Internet connection problems using IoT (Internet Of Things) technology and without the need for staff or a technician to intervene.  This solution proactively monitors any device connected to the network regardless of the vendor to detect performance issues, and continuously evaluates components to maintain and optimise their availability to avoid downtime or network failures. Moreover, it analyses all relevant information related to the use of WiFi by guests and its proper functioning and performance.   Trend #3: Mobile check-in is the new black If you are an HTR regular then you probably know what we think about hotel brands building their own tech, but to give some credit where credit is due back in 2015 Starwood identified the potential of mobile checkin and invested heavily in it because they saw what was coming.  If we can checkin for a flight on our phone, why can't we checkin for our hotel rooms? The reality is that mobile check-in is another area that has boomed during the pandemic with contactless everything as the new normal.  As hardware comes down in cost and mobile checkin goes mainstream, vendors are sprouting up left, right and center creating new opportunities for hoteliers to offer mobile checkin solutions empowering saavy hoteliers to be more prepared for guest arrival, reduce front desk wait times, go contactless and even get some new checkin tricks up their sleeves with digital signatures, payment authorizations, upsells and more. Maestro launches mobile check-in.  Allows Maestro customers to enable guests to check-in on the fly, on their own personal mobile device, with no 3rd party app download required, creating a self-serve environment from their own device. GTRIIP Launches Selfie Check-in.  GTRIIP processes hotel check-ins using our OCR engine to read international passports and local photo IDs. We use our face verification engine powered by computer vision to match the face (with a selfie) against the photo ID. This check-in process can be completed on the web. Onres launches mobile check-in.  Enables Onres customers to increase incremental revenue by up to 30% with Contactless [Early] Check-in and Late Check-out, Upgrade your Room, and Add Add-ons. RoomKey PMS launches mobile check-in. 100% digital paperwork built into the RoomKey PMS from mobile check-in through check-out.  Automated payment and room release to better inventory management CODE2ORDER launches COVID-19 Vaccination Pass & Test-Certificate.  Hotel guests can upload their vaccination pass or test certificate during the online check-in at hotels or during their stay at the hotel (required for hotel stays in Germany). The upload can be easily done by using their own Smartphone without further app downloads. Hotels can check the uploads in the CODE2ORDER Backend.   Trend #4: Guest data management is in the spotlight Whether you look at Tiktok in social, Visa in payments or Netflix in entertainment--its clear that companies who have harnessed the power of unique customer data have realized massive profits.  The strange thing is that the hotel industry sits on a treasure trove of travel spend and guest preference data yet most hotels have still only scratched the suface of what they can do with this data because ultimately you need the right tools, structure and processes to actually act on it.  The good news is that if anybody knows just how valuable and powerful data can be its tech companies, and they're gearing up to help you harness one of your company's most valuable assets.  Hapi launches Hapi Connect for Salesforce.  Hapi Connect integrates hotel companies' data into Salesforce Cloud environments in real-time, helping hoteliers to innovate using the world’s leading CRM. Hapi Connect for Salesforce allows companies to centralize data and tailor each step of the guest journey, driving loyalty and increasing conversion. Oracle Hospitality Integrations Platform.  The Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform (OHIP) offers hotel operators and integrators unprecedented access to all of the capabilities that OPERA Cloud has to offer. By making available over 3 thousand REST APIs and a full self-service experience end to end, operators and integrators can now design, build and release their integrations in matters of days rather than weeks or months thus accelerating time to market and reducing costs. Bookboost launches CRM.  Guest messaging platform Bookboost also extended it's product to offer guest segmentation and email marketing. Manage your first-party customer data to track interactions to create personalised guest messages. Utilise a single system to manage guest engagement and build strong relationships. Clairvoyix Launches Hospitality Solution for Opera in the Cloud.  The Clairvoyix Hospitality Solution for Opera in the Cloud brings fully integrated transient sales and marketing automation to Oracle Hospitality customers. Utilzing the Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform, Opera in the Cloud customers can immediately start direct marketing to valuable past guests as past guest data is automatically transferred to the Clairvoyix Hospitality Solution. Guestjoy launches repeat customers.  Guestjoy launched a hotel CRM system for marketing managers in smaller hotels that helps them to build a customer database who is interested in getting special campaigns and offers. The tools they are using only allow them to set up a newsletter without knowing the background of a customer. Duve Guest Segments. Duve's Guest Segments allow hoteliers to send different messages to different guests, based on their profile and data you’ve collected from them. This includes reservation details, personal information, and more.  With Guest Segments, hotels can use both pre-scheduled or instant messaging to create a message to specific guests and provide an improved guest experience. Datavision DVGuest Analytics.  Datavision is adding powerful guest analytics features to our comprehensive business intelligence platform. Guest data is extracted and combined from a single source (PMS) or a variety of additional sources (Spa, Golf, Dining, CRM, etc.) supporting a 360-degree views of guest value, spend patterns and stay behavior. LaaSie launches Helix. Laasie has extended its core Reward Marketplace technology beyond the hotel website and booking engine, to bring personalized rewards to email campaigns. Each recipient of the campaign receives a uniquely personalized reward offer that resonates with his/her interests, demographics, and purchase behavior. iReckonU launches IKnowU Customer Data Platform. The IKnowU Customer Data Platform emerges as Ireckonu’s latest way to leverage its proven CORE Middleware. Synchronizing with your various PMS, CRS and other service delivery systems, IKnowU will become your system of record for clean, consolidated guest profiles. IKnowU’s powerful features include match & merge, identity and privacy management, subscription enrollment, communication control, behavioral and event data, and AI-assisted segmentation. It can also bring in third-party data. Simplotel Guest Connect.  Simplotel Guest Connect helps hotels convert their website content (promotions, and offers) into an email template with a single-click. Also, with a property management system integration, hotels can send mails and upsells to guests who book through any channel.   Trend #5: Empowering commercial leaders to level up their strategy & efficiency The term commercial refers to the concept that while historically there have been silod departments within hotel companies like revenue management or marketing, these walls are quickly being broken down as departments become more deeply entertwined.  The catalyst for this evolution in decades old operating model has undoubtedly been technology and the transparency, access to information and interconnectedness that it has unlocked.  This is not the first time breaking down departmental silos to emphasize a more hollistic commercial strategy has been a key theme of one of HTR's innovation recaps and it certainly won't be the last.  Impala Contracting.  Say hello to fast and easy hotel direct contracting. Whether it’s signing new deals or managing existing ones, Contracting by Impala enables direct contracts between hotels and tour operators, agencies or corporate travel platforms. We take away the costly integrations and lengthy negotiation cycles to negotiate deals in days, not months. List your hotel for free IDeaS Profit Optimization.  Profit Optimization for IDeaS G3 RMS considers any combination of servicing costs, ancillary revenue and associated margins, and acquisition or channel costs. This approach enables hotels, resorts, casinos, and more to get the most profitable guests into their property, while maximizing other inventory beyond the guest room, such as restaurants, bars, retail, and activities. HotelIQ Decision Cloud.  With the new HotelIQ Decision Cloud, hoteliers can organize data, analyze it, plan next steps, and collaborate with their team and across their organization. In doing so, we aim to give hoteliers the lenses they need to pull insights from complex data sets and make more intelligent decisions. RateGain launches Demand.ai. RateGain launched an AI powered demand forecasting tool, that helps hoteliers and other travel companies track hyper-local demand and the underlying factors impacting demand – thereby helping them optimize their commercial strategy. Event Temple Launches Chain Management Dashboard.  Event Temple’s Chain Management Dashboard is an above property sales enablement tool for chains and multi-property management groups. Organizations now have a hub to view bookings, leads, accounts, contacts, reports, and manage sales across multiple properties. Pace launches Restrictions Management. Take control of your business mix. Use restrictions to control your business mix. Pace will suggest when to close out corporate rates and maximise revenue from your transient business. Avvio launches allora ai Hotel Booking Retention Engine.  Avvio developed a Hotel Booking Retention Engine that sits within the allora.ai booking engine to counteract the rise in hotel room cancellations. They did this by identifying at risk bookings, and alerting hoteliers in an actionable format, so that measures can be taken to protect bookings.  allora.ai’s Hotel Booking Retention Engine uses machine learning and data science to assess cancelation risk for every individual booking on the books. MeetingPackage launches group pricing module.  MeetingPackage offers venues to sell in a transactional way via their own channels and through distribution. Venues are able to manage pricing of Meetings & Events services flexibly from one centralised place to all distribution channels. For example, minimum spend requirement, meeting package price per delegate or meeting room price per hour, half-day, full-day. Including seasonal prices and corporate negotiated rates. ProfitSword enhanced currency conversion functionality.  ProfitSword has updated the application to support viewing reports in any currency desired. As part of this update, we allow multiple exchange rates to be defined for any currency pair, depending on your reporting needs. The firm added flexibility to reports allowing a user to choose an exchange rate based on the data being reported eg; balance sheet data converted with a month end exchange rate, accounting data with month average, and budget with an annual exchange rate all in the same report. InnRoad launches new Pace and Pickup reports.  innRoad's new Pace & Pick Up Reports are designed to give users easy access to their property's performance with the click of a button. Users can compare their performance over time and see if they are above or below on their occupancy, revenue, and rooms sold. Avalon Analytics launched automated PowerPoint presentations. One of the pain points of a revenue manager is the time spent preparing for weekly and monthly meetings. This remains true at hotel-level and above-property level, where you may need to prepare a market performance review for senior executives, ranging from VPs Operations to Owners. Generate 20+ PowerPoint slides for your weekly revenue meetings and month-end owner meetings within minutes. Avalon allows you to load entire presentations that are always up-to-date and ready to be delivered to your inbox.     D-EDGE Launches MediaGenius. D-EDGE provides hoteliers with an all-in-one platform to manage and monitor digital media campaigns: search, metasearch, display, and social media. With MediaGenius, hoteliers can easily follow the evolution of income and bookings generated via AdWords, analyze their campaigns’ performance, and fine-tune their strategy. The Hotels Network Launches Bench Direct. BenchDirect by The Hotels Network is an interactive analytics platform for hotels to benchmark their direct channel performance compared to the market and competition. The tool provides hotels with competitive insights across more than 30 key metrics specifically related to direct bookings. VoucherCart launches enterprise. VoucherCart Enterprise is a SaaS software product used by international and national hospitality operators with responsibility for marketing, sales, and revenue across multiple business units/member organisations. It enables them to promote and sell vouchers, gift cards, memberships, and tickets (pre-paid instant delivery) associated with their products and services and manage these centrally across all member organisations allowing cross-organisational redeem and usage, while also supporting voucher management and sale at member organisation level. Hotel Res Bot Launches AI Channel Manager. Many distribution partners such as Secret Escapes don't have interfaces to transfer bookings automatically, which means they simply send an email and reservation staff must manually enter these bookings into the PMS. The HERA AI Channel Manager reads those incoming emails and automatically pushes them to your PMS directly or via your CRS or traditional Channel Manager. Trend #6: Vendors are gearing up to help simplify payments for hoteliers If you follow the tech world, you know that payments are big money.  You don't have to look far to see a massive head turning round like Stripe's $600M Series H (who even knew series H was a thing...), Affirm's market debut 100% pop or Plaid's (almost) $5B+ merger with Visa that was later blocked by regulators.  Other than being the lifeblood of every business on the planet, payments infrastructure is so immensely valuable because its extremely challenging to develop and maintain compliance.  While there are tons of payments solutions out there, there are few that have truly built out domain specific offerings specifically for the hotel industry to meet its unique challenges (and opportunities) and hotel tech companies are spotting the opportunity. Cloudbeds Payments. Hotel payment processing has been complicated for too long. Cloudbeds Payments provides easy, transparent and contactless payment processing that is fully integrated into the Cloudbeds Hospitality Platform, saving your property time and money. Bbot Tab Sync. Keep guests happy and servers relaxed with Bbot Tab Sync, a seamless addition to the Bbot Order + Pay solution. Plus, activating Tab Sync for in-venue and in-room dining guests gets you exclusive access to our BOGO deal on handheld devices! Adyen partners with Shiji to simplify hospitality payments.  This new integration simplifies the payment process for hospitality businesses by removing the need for a list of platforms and suppliers which usually includes separate processes for property management systems, food and beverage point of sale, and guest experience platforms not to mention the different payments service providers for each. SmartHOTEL launches SmartCONNECT for Payment. SmartCONNECT for Payment ensures that hotel guests’ payments can be made quickly, securely, and hospitably. With the click of a button, payments for online and offline bookings are automatically billed by the payment service provider of choice and processed directly on the guest folio of the hotel’s Property Management System (PMS). dailypoint™ Launches Payment Link. The dailypoint™ Payment link is part of the Booking Manager. It allows hoteliers to automate payments and process them securely according to PCI and PSD2 regulations. Implementing the payment link relieves the reservations department and minimizes the risk of fraud since no more credit card data is being processed directly or stored at the hotel. RoomOrders Launches Digital Tourist Hubs.  The RoomOrders digital tourist hub is an ordering and payment network of hospitality providers (hotels and resorts connected to surrounding vendors in a revenue-sharing model) to protect from accommodation giants like Booking dot com and AirBnB and restaurants from delivery giants like UberEats and GrubHub as well as excursion and tours agencies like Expedia and TripAdvisor.

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8 Ways a Hotel PMS Improves Operations and the Guest Experience

by
Jan Hejny
3 weeks ago

Shortly after COVID restrictions were eased, I went on a short golfing trip to Austria. I booked a well-known boutique hotel with a SPA and a fantastic restaurant surrounded by vineyards. I found out later that many other people had the same idea, as the hotel was fully booked for the weekend. Well, good for them, I thought. Anyway, when I arrived, it was raining, and I didn't bring my umbrella with me. So I came into the hotel soaked, hungry, and in desperate need of a shower. Unfortunately, out of the two check-in desks available, only one was operating, and the poor guy was trying hard to check in all the arriving guests as quickly as possible, while doing his best to have a cordial chat with them. Make no mistake: I'm sure it wasn't his fault that we had to wait for five minutes before he finished with the previous guest. When finally my turn came, the receptionist spent a tremendous amount of time staring down at his computer. I tried to ask him a few PMS-related questions, to understand why it was taking so long (of course, he didn't have any idea I knew a thing or two about PMSs), but I started to feel bad for the people waiting behind me, so I stopped any efforts to communicate with him, and I wasn't even told where and until when I could get my breakfast or where the SPA was. And that was the moment I realized, at least on a personal level, that there's something intrinsically wrong with hotel tech today.   When Technology Breaks Down Now, I am sure that, if you’re a frequent traveler like me, you have similar horror stories. According to a Qualtrics survey, 57% of poor hotel experiences are down to unfriendly staff. Problem is that, very often, hotel staff is unfriendly because they’re overworked, especially post-COVID, when properties are operating with skeleton staff. Here’s where technology should help, but the Austrian one is the perfect example of a case where it didn’t, and this happens way more than we, in the industry, like to admit. Moreover, tech should not only improve operations, but guest experience as well. Bad news is that, often, it fails in both fields. When your tech stack increases workload and waiting time at the reception (or in any other department, for that matter), you know you’ve got a problem. Technology is fallible, whatever you may think, and choosing the wrong software can heavily penalize your operation. A couple of years ago, a curious news story was published: the Henn-na hotel in Japan, known mainly because a good part of its employees are actual robots, had to "fire" 243 of them for doing "a bad job." One staff member, interviewed by The Mirror, stated: "It's easier now that we're not being frequently called by guests to help with problems with the robots." Well, this is an extreme example, but it’s not uncommon to see hotel staff having to find hacks and workarounds to make things work. If you’ve ever had a job in the hotel business, you know exactly what I am talking about.   The Role of the PMS in the Hotel Tech Stack Now, at the core of hotel operations, there’s always the PMS, so this is where the majority of problems start: bad integrations, lack of built-in features, etc. Choosing wisely is crucial, but not always easy, especially because hoteliers may be, paradoxically, unaware of the problems they need to solve. This is not due to the fact that hoteliers are bad entrepreneurs, quite the opposite! Problem is that being a hotelier means having to manage many operational aspects of the job, most of which are very complex and detailed. A General Manager, for instance, will obviously have to prioritize certain tasks, rather than spending hours to go deep and understand a certain technical problem. The thing with PMSs is that they’re the kind of software which is used by several different departments, so everyone has an opinion on it, yet a partial one. Sales & Marketing will likely never have to insert a group reservation, while the front office department won’t have to deal with MICE requests. In my experience, General Managers are the ones which can green light the implementation of a new software, coordinating, understanding and synchronising different departments’ needs, but chances are that their vision is limited, due to too many things on their minds, too. And we’re back to the hotel in Austria: somebody picks the wrong software, the system makes the life of all (or, at least, some) employees miserable, there’s less time to focus on the guests (which is even worse than the previous issue, while, of course, unhappy employees are unlikely to make guests happy), and… Well, you see where I am going with this, don’t you?   How PMSs Can Improve Operations and Guest Experience So, when picking a PMS, you should always be asking the one million dollar question: will this system make my life (and the life of my staff) easier so that they can make my guests happier? Knowing what to look for in a PMS can make a huge difference, so make sure that you understand what a property management system can (or can’t) do for you while trying to go into details during the process. Because if there’s anything we have learned over the past two decades, is that the devil is always hidden in details. Here are some of the areas where a good PMS can actually make a difference for both the hotel staff and guests: Reducing the workload during the check-in/out process. A publication by Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research studied guests’ tolerance of delays during check-ins, and found that the “breaking point” for US guests is as short as five minutes. There’s an interesting discussion on Quora titled “What is the actual average length of time (in minutes) for hotel check-in and check-out?” Of course, the method is far from scientific, but it’s a fascinating read. According to the discussion, a best-case-scenario-check-in is at least 2-3 minutes. You know what that means? That if an American guest has two persons in front of him, he will likely leave a pesky review… Self check-in kiosks and apps can dramatically improve the check-in/out experience, yet most PMS do not support the technology; Remove friction during payments. It’s not uncommon to find hotels that still manage credit card payments manually. Usually, it goes like this: the back office department receives a booking, and they have to log in into the extranet, find the reservation, get the card, switch to another page for the CVC, get the physical terminal POS, type the total amount and the card details, wait for the transaction to go through. If this doesn’t look like a big deal for you, try to time your staff while they do it. I doubt it will take them less than five minutes per transaction. Now, let’s say you receive 25 reservations a day: that’s over two hours wasted just to charge credit cards. Not to mention what happens if the card does not work, you have to ask for a new one and start the process all over again. A PMS can solve the issue with payment automation proprietary features, or by integrating to third-party providers; Integrate invoicing systems. It may sound crazy in 2021, but I have seen too many hotels where the reception has to ask accountants to issue an invoice and, on the other side, too many accountants typing numbers manually from PMSs reports into their accounting systems… A simple integration will save hours of manpower every day; Connect your PMS to your SPA system. In most cases, if a hotel guest wants to book a treatment at the desk, the reception has to call the SPA, check availability and then book. Integrating the two systems will dramatically reduce workload, and guests will also be able to book and check availability directly online; Get smart in F&B. The adoption of QR codes and online ordering increased dramatically due to anti-COVID guidelines, and this is a prime example of a system that can dramatically reduce waiting times and improve guest experience. Customers are able to order (and pay) immediately on their phones. This reduces the waiting time (the waiter does not have to come and take your order or bring you the bill). Customers are in full control of the timing, and restaurants can allocate less staff to serve the same number of people, saving money. Moreover, thanks to Kitchen Display Systems (KDS), orders are not printed on paper but are shown digitally on a screen in the kitchen. KDS can also measure the average time needed to cook a meal, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction; Housekeeping digitalization. Another feature that COVID dramatically accelerated is the adoption of housekeeping apps, both built-in in the PMS or provided by third-party vendors. They reduce workload and make communication between departments easier. Hoteliers can also benchmark housekeeping staff timing to optimize operations and - particularly important for green hotels - drastically reduce the use of paper. According to a study, hotels use almost 2B A4 sheets per year in the United States only, meaning that 268,000 trees are chopped down annually only to fulfill the hotel industry's needs. It's the equivalent of 15 New York Central Park worth of trees cut every year! Automated emailing. Even though this is a feature we tend to associate with CRMs, some PMSs provide built-in functionality to communicate with guests pre/mid/post-stay, improving both the guest experience and increasing revenue coming from ancillary services proposed in the emails; Connect. Connect. Connect. It may sound crazy, but there are still a lot of hotels without a proper 2-way-integration between the PMS and the channel manager. It goes without saying that linking the two systems will dramatically reduce workload and bring human error down to virtually zero.   Understand the Tradeoffs of New Technology to Maximize Impact Paul Virilio once stated: “When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution... Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.” This is true for hotel tech as well, that is why implementing technology just for the sake of it it’s never a good idea. Choosing any software, and PMSs, in particular, requires a complete understanding of the property’s current (and future) needs. The risk with picking the wrong system is to end up like the Austrian hotel I wrote about at the beginning of this piece. At HotelTime Solutions, we provide tailored solutions and follow our customers during all the phases of the implementation, making sure that they can focus on what they do best: taking care of their guests.  

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The Rise of Mobile Ordering: From Trend to Core Hospitality Technology

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

It’s more convenient than ever to dine out or order in, thanks to the proliferation of food delivery apps and technology that makes ordering and payment a breeze. In fact, 80% of Americans have used food delivery apps before, and about 60% order food via an app at least once per week. Ordering food from your phone is becoming widely accepted in all facets of the hospitality industry, aligning with a shift toward the “low-touch economy,” the contact-free trend that accelerated as a result of the COVID pandemic. As more people want a contactless experience, and as people become more comfortable with technology in the hospitality space, mobile ordering will be an integral part of the future of the hotel and restaurant industry. Traveler preferences have evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, shifting toward contactless, on-demand services. These changes extend beyond hotels, as more people have become accustomed to food delivery, video calls, and even virtual fitness classes as socially distant substitutes to in-person interaction. The contactless trend appears to be here to stay. Retailers have adopted contactless payment terminals, supermarkets offer contactless grocery pick-up, and many hotels now offer contactless check-in and on-demand housekeeping service to limit physical touchpoints. At hotels, guests also want the ability to order food without speaking face-to-face with restaurant or room service staff and to be able to enjoy it while they work remotely in the lobby, under the shade of a cabana, or in the privacy of their guestroom. RoomOrders was founded in 2017 to provide this convenience for guests, and the company was originally designed to digitize room service operations at the Hilton Boston Downtown. Success in Boston led RoomOrders to expand to hotels across the world, working with brands like Marriott and Accor in addition to Hilton. RoomOrders is now in over 300 leading hotels and resorts across the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the RoomOrders team saw an opportunity to bring their technology to not only hotel room service operations, but also to hospitality businesses ranging from restaurants to health and beauty centers, convenience stores, and tourist attractions to meet the desire for contactless service. As RoomOrders CEO Eugene Jones says, “mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trending sector to a booming sector.” Tech-enabled options are becoming increasingly popular, and rather than being viewed as a novelty, a tech-forward experience is an expectation. Customers are also becoming more savvy. Consumers in the F&B space are accustomed to ordering everything from their mobile devices whether it’s a new pair of Nike shoes, their groceries, or even a Tesla.  It’s only natural that these guests expect room service on their smartphones, too. With mobile ordering, a customer can browse the menu, place an order, and pay on their smartphone without the need for in-person interaction with staff. “Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool...without having to get up to approach a bar to order,” says Jones. But mobile ordering isn’t for everyone. Jones recognizes that some guests relish the in-person interaction or don’t feel comfortable placing orders on their smartphone for a variety of reasons. The good news is that “guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice.” Even when you implement mobile ordering, you can serve customers the way they want to be served. Mobile ordering doesn’t just benefit customers - it’s good business: increased revenue, more efficient and helpful staff, and higher guest satisfaction. Hotel businesses that partner with RoomOrders often report increases in overall revenue and average order volume. Why? RoomOrders eliminates friction in the ordering experience, so it’s easier than ever for customers to purchase food and drinks. Without mobile ordering, customers might decide not to order from your outlet if they see a long line or if they can’t flag down a server. Mobile ordering removes these obstacles and makes ordering effortless. Plus, the RoomOrders interface allows you to configure upsell options, specials, and tagging that make your menu items more compelling. Someone who might have skipped a side dish or dessert might be convinced to try it when they see it as a recommended pairing with their entree. In addition to highlighting the potential for revenue growth, Jones debunks a common misconception about mobile ordering systems. In our interview, he says “a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable.” The futuristic idea of a hotel run by robots isn’t going to be the future of your hotel with mobile ordering. The opposite is true; by letting technology handle menial, repetitive tasks like taking orders and running payment, your staff can focus on more important work, like building meaningful relationships with guests. Menu updates are seamless with a digital system like RoomOrders. Without a mobile ordering system, staff would need to reprint menus every time a menu item changed. RoomOrders allows you to make menu updates with just a few clicks so you can always keep your menus up-to-date and accurate. Overall, mobile ordering helps you deliver a better guest experience. It makes the ordering process more efficient at your restaurant, and, as Eugene discusses in the interview, it can also give guests an alternative to a potentially frustrating experience like waiting on hold for room service. Ultimately, guests who have a better experience at your hotel spend more and are more likely to return which is why this once trendy technology is becoming a global staple. Eager to learn more about mobile ordering? Read our interview with RoomOrders’ CEO Eugene Jones below     This content was created collaboratively by Hotel Tech Report and RoomOrders.   Tell us about the founding story behind Roomorders. In a nutshell, RoomOrders was founded in 2018 after one of the co-founders Haris Dizdarevic, who is an IT expert, sat with his restaurant owner friend in the Boston Hilton and suggested the hotel could digitalise its operations with self-service ordering by guest mobile phones. We were arguably the pioneers of QR code ordering in hotel rooms and this was a major move from fixed phones. However, QR code ordering has opened up new revenue streams by expanding ordering and payment opportunities outside bedrooms to the entire hotel or resort complex, as well as neighbourhood by connecting with community vendors. During the corona crisis, we realised digital ordering via QR codes or NFC tags could be done from anywhere outside hotels as well, from poolsides to beaches, rooftop bars to golf courses and neighbouring vendors, from restaurants to health and beauty centres, supermarkets and tourist attractions.   Why has mobile ordering been growing so rapidly in your opinion? Apart from opening up new revenue streams, your hotel will have an edge over rival destinations by restoring confidence in health and safety as a digitalised, low-contact hotel offering self-service ordering and payments via guest smartphone. Today's guest expect on-demand service and integration with surrounding vendors allows QR code ordering and payments of almost anything from anywhere on the hotel or resort site. I think Asia, which has totally skipped credit cards and where people no longer have a use for wallets, is indicative of the future awaiting us. When I see the corona QR passports and vouchers, it is obvious that mobile ordering is inevitable and that everything will be digital, powered by lightning broadband communication. I think we will be ordering from holograms appearing in thin air...  It will be like snapping fingers to be served in an instant! Many hotels believe that QR codes and pdf menus are a “good enough” solution for contactless ordering. Contrary to that belief is documented reality that guests hate downloading pdfs or any apps and feel teased if they cannot order as well as pay after seeing digital menus. The beauty of digital ordering platforms is that guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice   How should hoteliers feel about automation of routine tasks? There is always the danger of technology replacing human touch in hospitality and this can be seen as a positive in terms of cost savings for hotels during tough times, yet a loss for social interaction and engagement - something we have traditionally enjoyed as consumers. However, a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable,entertaining or helpful in the process of delivering excellent guest experience.   How can hoteliers distinguish between mobile ordering software solutions? Mobile ordering is different to room service as mobile ordering is remote and unrestricted, it can be done from anywhere across a hotel or resort, rather than just a hotel room. Room service on the other hand is limited to just a room and the guest experience confined to a room.  Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool, or a finger-food snack, without having to get up to approach a bar to order or even pick up orders. Our research shows orders skyrocket throughout the whole day, especially hot days, in this particular scenario. Hotels can’t be, or have, everything for guests, so RoomOrders is connecting hotel guests with surrounding vendors of all sorts of products and services on or off-site, expanding the guest experience by bringing anything, anywhere to their feet wherever they may be around the hotel or resort.   What has been the impact of COVID on the state of mobile ordering? COVID has been a double-edged sword. While it has suspended business for many hotels, particularly during lockdowns, it has also increased the urgency of digitalization, particularly contactless service, ie QR code ordering and payments. Mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trend sector to a booming sector, and in that respect we see it as a bigger revolution than food delivery - which is basically restricted to fixed addresses and extremely expensive. I think Covid-19 has sped up the dawn of a new age, the fourth industrial revolution. Everything will be digital and accessible remotely, starting with our jobs. The adoption of new technology, particularly QR code ordering and payments will move from a trend to boom sector and like Asia, we will no longer carry credit cards or wallets. Our mobile phones will be a lifeline, the centre of our world and essential to survival. Accessing our phone as fast as possible will be key, so QR codes may be replaced by something faster, but right now it seems RoomOrders will be busy improving people’s lives by fast ordering and secure payments. I honestly cannot see a hotel or resort without RoomOrders or a competitor service.   Are there misconceptions amongst hoteliers in this emerging category? It’s true, hoteliers think it’s expensive, when it is actually free, zero capital investment. Other fallacies include preconceptions that guests want human contact with waiters or that older people are technophobes. The reality is that newer generations want immediate glorification, on-demand service. Amazon and food delivery has changed their expectations, to the point of even compromising quality for efficiency. Seniors are actually the fastest growing segment of adopters of social media, Sure they were a bit slower, but when they sense that old methods are fading, they adapt just as easily as other groups, provided that the experience is intuitional, or in other terms, easy.   Are there any stories that stick out to you where RoomOrders delivered outsized impact for clients? Just before the pandemic, I arrived on a late flight into Las Vegas to speak at a conference about the threats facing hospitality in the digital era, and I was really hungry. As the hotel didn’t provide room service in the evening, I picked up a flyer and ordered pizza delivery by phone. I had to go outside, passing restaurants in the casino lobby and there were about 20 or so others waiting for their delivery too, even though it was past midnight already, There was so much confusion, it was a horrible guest experience that gave us the idea to not only integrate all the surrounding restaurants of a hotel, but other vendors too. It also gave me fodder for my speech, which offered RoomOrders as a way to combat the threat of aggressive food delivery services preying on local restaurants and hotel guests. The last year has demonstrated without dilemma that we have deeply entered the era of contactless ordering and payment  

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The Ultimate Guide to Hospitality Technology (2021)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Did you know the average small business uses 40 different software applications, and the average hotel uses around 20? In an ideal world, every system in your hotel’s tech stack would help you automate tasks, reduce costs, grow revenue, and deliver a five-star guest experience. But we understand that getting up-to-date on the myriad of technology solutions available to hotels can be daunting! Where do you even start? In this article, we’ll introduce you to each piece of the hotel technology landscape, from revenue management to reputation management and everything in between. Drawing on insights from over 10,000 hotel software reviews written by hoteliers across the globe, this article will also highlight some top software vendors in each category. For more detailed testimonials and additional software choices, you’ll want to click over to the full list of vendors. Let’s dive in!     9 Hotel Operations Software Tools that Drive Efficiency This category of software includes the most essential technology for hotel operations: checking guests in, reconciling accounts, handling payroll, and getting feedback from guests. Your hotel’s size and complexity will determine which systems you need; small, limited-service hotels might be fine with a PMS and a payment processor, but a large resort could benefit from each category of software. 1. Property management systems (PMS): The PMS is the central hub for hotel operations. In this system, staff can check guests in and out, create and manage reservations, pull financial reports, manage guest profiles, and more. According to user reviews and analysis of system functionality, the top PMSs are Cloudbeds, Clock, and HotelTime, though there are over a hundred more great systems on the market. 2. Staff collaboration tools: Hotel staff are scattered across different floors, buildings, and shifts, so a communication platform is necessary to keep everyone on the same page. Systems like hotelkit, Monscierge, and ALICE can replace analog methods like walkie-talkies and logbooks, plus they can track tasks, reduce manual errors, and increase efficiency. 3. Housekeeping and engineering software: These tools digitize the operations of your housekeeping and maintenance departments, with the ability to automate task assignment, monitor real-time status of rooms or issues, and track task completion. Top software in this category includes hotelkit, Flexkeeping, and ALICE. 4. Guest feedback and surveys: Do away with the paper comment cards and give guests a digital platform to voice their feedback, such as GuestRevu, TrustYou, or Revinate. Not only are these tech solutions easy for guests to use, but they also allow hoteliers to customize, automate, and analyze guest comments and complaints. 5. Accounting and reporting: If your hotel accepts payments from guests and issues payments to employees and vendors, then you’ll benefit from an accounting and reporting system like myDigitalOffice, M3, or Omniboost. A modern accounting system reveals opportunities to reduce costs and maximize revenue, plus makes your accounting team more efficient with automated reports and integrations with other on-site software. 6. Payments Processing: Most guests prefer to pay for their reservations with credit cards, but a payment processing system is necessary to get the funds from the guest’s card into your hotel’s bank account. Payment processors like Profitroom, Mews Payments, and Adyen charge a small processing fee, but they make getting paid as seamless as possible. 7. Labor management: Hotels have dozens, if not hundreds, of employees, so scheduling is no easy task. Software such as Hotel Effectiveness’ PerfectLabor™, M3, and UniFocus include forecasting, insight into labor costs, and integrations with payroll and timekeeping systems.  8. Meetings and events: Whether your hotel has one private dining room or several floors of ballrooms and breakout spaces, meetings and events software can support every step of the sales and planning process - and the event itself. Highly rated meetings and events software includes Proposales, Event Temple, and Blockbuster by Duetto. 9. F&B and point-of-sale systems: The pandemic accelerated demand for features like contactless menus and online ordering, so there has been a huge wave of innovation in the F&B software space. Vendors like RoomOrders, Bbot, and Oracle’s MICROS can help restaurants modernize their operations, cut costs, reduce reliance on delivery platforms, and strengthen relationships with customers.   7 Revenue Management Tech Systems that Improve Yield Strategy The goal of revenue management is to sell the right room to the right guest at the right price, and revenue managers leverage a variety of software to achieve their RevPAR goals. 1. Revenue management systems (RMS): The secret weapon of any revenue manager is the RMS; this system analyzes historical data, market supply and demand, and forecasts to recommend the rates most likely to maximize revenue and profitability. You might also hear revenue management software like IDeaS, Duetto’s Gamechanger, or Atomize referred to as “yield management systems” or “pricing engines.” 2. Channel managers: A channel manager is the link between a hotel’s property management system and distribution channels like Booking.com, Expedia, and the GDS. Channel managers such as SiteMinder, Cloudbeds’ myallocator, and D-EDGE’s Smart Channel Manager allow hoteliers to make changes in one system, their PMS, rather than managing rates on each channel individually. 3. Central reservation systems (CRS): Larger hotels or hotels that are part of a chain or group might use a CRS to centralize all bookings, whether they’re made by call center staff, the hotel’s own website, or a third-party channel. The CRS will then send reservations to the PMS for room assignments. Popular CRSs include Pegasus, Windsurfer, and GuestCentric CRS. 4. Rate shopping and market intelligence: A key to revenue management success is selling competitive rates, but how do you know what your competitors are selling? Rate shopping tools, like OTA Insight, Siteminder Insights, and D-EDGE RateScreener, do the heavy lifting for you and present competitor rates and market forecasts in user-friendly dashboards and reports. 5. Parity management: OTAs ask hotels to provide rate parity, meaning selling the same rate across all channels, and, as a hotelier, you don’t want OTAs to sell cheaper rates than your hotel’s website. Parity management tools, like OTA Insight, FornovaDI, and Triptease give hoteliers access to dashboards that monitor rates across all channels in real-time. 6. Business intelligence: Revenue managers love data, but sometimes all that data is too much for Excel to handle. Business intelligence tools offer better solutions for slicing, dicing, and visualising data through dashboards and reports suitable for studying historical performance or predicting the future. Top BI applications include OTA Insight, Scoreboard by Duetto, and ProfitSage. 7. Upselling Software: Driving incremental revenue per guest is possible with upselling tools that automate the entire process - and use profile data and historical trends to serve the most compelling, personalized offers to each guest, like room upgrades or F&B items. Tools like Oaky, EasyWay Smart Upselling, and GuestJoy also enable hoteliers to start the upselling process before the guest arrives on property.   9 Guest Experience Platforms to Improve Satisfaction Scores How do you create a five-star guest experience in the digital age? A plethora of systems exist to delight guests, from contactless check-in solutions to modern in-room entertainment. 1. Guest messaging: Messaging platforms allow hotels to communicate with guests via their preferred platform: text messaging, email, or even apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Top-rated systems like Monscierge, Whistle, and EasyWay support automated messaging and one central dashboard where staff can respond. 2. Keyless entry: Keyless entry software enables a guest to unlock their room or other secure areas like gyms or pools with a wave of their smartphone. Systems like Mobile Access by ASSA ABLOY, FLEXIPASS, and Openkey.co offer integrations with PMSs for a seamless arrival experience. 3. Guest apps: Digitize your in-room directory with a hotel app like ALICE, INTELITY, or Duve. These downloadable apps put everything guests need to know at their fingertips, from contact info and directions to room service menus and local recommendations.  4. Contactless check-in: In the wake of the pandemic, guests prefer a contactless arrival process, and software like EasyWay, Canary, and Duve make it easy for hotels to pivot to a fully digital check-in. Functionality includes ID scanning, digital registration cards, upselling, payment processing, and arrival time coordination. 5. In-room tablets: Just like the smartphone replaced our digital cameras and rolodexes, an in-room tablet can replace your rooms’ telephones, directories, room service menus, TV remotes, thermostats, and more. Tablet providers like SuitePad, Crave Interactive, and INTELITY are even proven to increase guest satisfaction and revenue. 6. Energy management: These systems have two goals: decrease your hotel’s energy costs and reduce your hotel’s environmental impact. Vendors like Verdant Energy Management Solutions, Telkonet, and EcoStruxure are designed with hotels in mind and seek to not only decrease costs, but also enhance the guest experience. 7. Guest room entertainment: Today’s guests want more than local cable channels on their guestroom TVs; systems like Monscierge ZAFIRO IPTV, and Sonifi provide interactive content and entertainment for all types of hotels, plus additional marketing and engagement opportunities you couldn’t get with traditional TV. 8. Mobile ordering/F&B: Bbot, RoomOrders, SABA F&B Ordering, and other systems provide an essential piece of technology for hotels and restaurants: mobile ordering. With this software, guests and customers can access menus, place orders, and pay from their smartphones, and F&B outlets can better manage order fulfillment and deliver an end-to-end contactless experience. 9. Hotel Wi-Fi: What was once a premium add-on is now an essential amenity at hotels, especially with a growing segment of travelers working remotely. To offer reliable high-speed internet access, hotels can partner with vendors like Cisco (Meraki), Percipia, or GuestTek that offer implementation services and ongoing support.   9 Marketing Tools to Lower Acquisition Costs and Drive Direct Bookings Of course, you don’t need any of the software listed above if nobody knows about your hotel! Marketing software allows you to tap into new audiences of guests and build relationships with your existing guest base. 1. Booking engines: For hoteliers seeking to increase direct business, a booking engine is essential. This software allows guests to book reservations on your hotel’s website by displaying rates and availability from your PMS, then integrating reservations into the PMS. Cloudbeds, Bookassist, and SiteMinder offer some of the best booking engines.  2. Reputation management: A reputation management tool helps you request, track, analyze, and respond to guest reviews across sites like Tripadvisor and Google and your own surveys. Some of the industry leaders are TrustYou, GuestRevu, and Revinate, and they can even assist in increasing guest review scores by revealing insights about guest sentiment. 3. Website builders and content management systems (CMS): Outsourcing your website design isn’t necessary with a CMS; these tools allow you to build, edit, and organize website pages and content, and they support integrations with booking engines, payment processors, widgets and more. Smart CMS by Bookassist, Profitroom, and Net Affinity are some of the top website builders. 4. Direct booking tools: If you want to increase direct bookings, then an app like Triptease, Hotelchamp, or TrustYou can boost the number of shoppers who complete bookings on your hotel’s website. These tools let you display personalized messages, snippets of guest reviews, price comparison widgets, and more - all of which give guests reasons to book direct instead of on an OTA. 5. Digital marketing agencies: Don’t have the time or resources to handle digital marketing in-house? A digital marketing agency can lend their expertise to help your hotel succeed in search engine marketing, social media, content creation, and PR. Bookassist, Avvio, and Net Affinity are some of the leaders in this space. 6. Social media tools: Whether you’re trying to build a new audience or stay in touch with past guests, social media is an important component of your hotel’s marketing strategy. Social media vendors like BCV, Sprout Social, and Travel Media Group can help you achieve your reach and engagement goals. 7. Metasearch and ad tech: Metasearch channels, like Google, Kayak, and Tripadvisor, are powerful drivers of traffic to your hotel website - if you leverage them effectively. These sites require special connectivity and a bidding strategy, and tools like Bookassist, Avvio, and Koddi will help you manage budgets, track attribution, and understand market dynamics. 8. Website live chat/chatbots: Potential guests shopping on your website want answers now - without needing to pick up the phone. A chatbot, like one from Asksuite, Quicktext, or Whistle, use artificial intelligence to answer guest questions quickly and accurately, plus capture leads and increase conversion on your website. 9. Hotel CRM: Your database of guest email addresses is a gold mine - if you can leverage it strategically. A CRM system, such as Revinate, Profitroom, and dailypoint 360, allows you to capture email addresses on your website, send automated messages throughout the guest’s journey, create segments of profiles with specific characteristics, and analyze open rates, click-through rates, and conversion.   F&B and MICE The food and beverage and meetings and events components of the hotel industry have their own technology solutions too. Whether you’re trying to streamline your room service offerings or support citywide conferences in a maze of meeting spaces, you can find software to help you execute any type of service or event. 1. Restaurant management: In order to run a restaurant smoothly, restaurateurs leverage point-of-sale software to manage stock in real-time, handle transactions, reserve tables, run reports, and more. Popular restaurant management software includes Vento ePOS, Oracle MICROS, and Lightspeed POS. 2. Mobile ordering and room service: Contactless service is the latest trend in F&B, but it seems likely to become the norm. Mobile ordering systems, such as Bbot, RoomOrders, and SABA F&B Ordering, allow restaurants to upload digital menus, accept online orders, and receive contactless payments, and customers can feel confident in more efficient service and accurate orders and bills. 3. Meetings and events intelligence: This category of software aims to help hoteliers maximize their meetings and events business by understanding market dynamics, uncovering insights about attendees, and optimizing pricing and space usage. Top meetings and events intelligence tools include Blockbuster by Duetto, IDeaS (SmartSpace), and Get Into More. 4. Group sourcing and RFP tools: Without software to assist, the RFP process is tedious. RFP software, such as Proposales, MeetingPackage, and Venuesuite, moves this process online and helps you to automate it, making all the back-and-forth more efficient and helping sales teams reach their goals. 5. Event management: Software doesn’t just help your sales team seal the deal, but also to plan and execute the event itself. Event Temple, Tripleseat, EVENTMACHINE, and others provide functionality to send proposals, get e-signatures, manage traces, communicate with clients, and create and edit BEOs and agendas.   Looking for more resources on hotel industry software? Download the free 2021 HotelTechIndex Market Leaders Report.

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4 Hotel Tech Tools for the Post-Pandemic Travel Surge

by
Sandra Holland
1 month ago

It’s no secret that the travel industry was one of the most prominent industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the U.S Association of Travel reported that the United States lost around $500 billion in travel spend, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization reported international tourism plummeting between 20%-30% in 2020. But it’s not only airlines within the industry who suffered.  Hoteliers too, have felt the devastating effects on their bottom line. With more than one third of hotels claiming bankruptcy in 2020 and 77% laying off critical workers, McKinsey and Company declared hotels “among the hardest hit” during the pandemic.  2020 was undeniably a tumultuous time for hoteliers, however, with vaccines rolling out and safety measures improving around the globe, the future for hospitality looks more bright than bleak. In fact, it was predicted by Statista that “as a result of increasingly affordable flight rates and cheaper oil prices, passenger and cargo air traffic are estimated to grow substantially through 2039.” What’s more, McKinsey and Company predicted revenue per available hotel room (RevPAR) returning to very near pre-crisis levels in 2022. With a more than devastating past few years, the coming months will remain pivotal time for hotels to harness in order to prepare for a surge in travel and return to a thriving business. In that case and in order to prepare you for an influx of guests with new preferences, we’re sharing our top tools to consider, in a post-Covid world, so you can maintain efficiency and build customer satisfaction.   4 Tools to Consider For The Post-Pandemic Era Over the course of 2020, the number of customers opting for technology to combat face to face communication, increased radically. Social media grew as a customer service channel, check-in and check-outs became streamlined through online portals and QR codes created a safe and effective way for customers to place orders.  During the pandemic, technology wasn’t a nice to have, but rather a necessity in order to communicate and win customers. McKinsey even reported that the “responses to COVID-19 sped the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul.” In addition, according to Gursoy’s, COVID-19 Study 2 Report: Restaurant and Hotel Industry, the majority of hotel customers (70.42%) believe that the use of various technologies in service delivery is necessary in the COVID-19 environment in order to minimize human-to-human contact. Some examples include; service robots, digital menus that can be viewed on personal mobile devices via QR codes, contactless digital payments, keyless entry, touchless elevators, etc. For hotels, the next year will be a critical time to set a foundation of service and enhanced experience in order to win loyalty. In this next section, to support your hotel endeavours with the influx of customers, we’ll take a look at technology-based tools to help meet customer needs and streamline operations for maximum efficiency. Safety Satisfaction Measurement According to McKinsey and Company, when asked “what it would take to get [travelers] to travel again, most stated additional health and safety measures.” Post-pandemic, an integral part of improving satisfaction and maintaining hotel operations, will be the need for improved safety measures. This means, following regulations, taking extra precaution and then measuring guest satisfaction to see how you’ve performed. Measurement will be a key factor here, as you can understand critical touch points like room cleanliness, satisfaction with contactless check-in, ease of check-in with rapid tests, room service and more, to continuously improve the experience. Self-Service Options Even before the pandemic, people around the world were shifting towards a more digital approach to business interaction. The pandemic, in this instance, simply accelerated that pace, pressuring businesses to consider innovative ways to incorporate technology. For hotels, self service options will be paramount in a thriving customer experience. Whether it be in the form of a chatbot on your website answering frequently asked questions, a portal on your website for check in and check out, or an OnDemand ordering system for room service. By having self-service options in place, you reduce employee error and meet customers where they are for a streamlined journey.  Consolidated Messaging  As a result of shifting to digital capabilities, McKinsey also noted the acceleration of digitized customer interactions. A whopping 3 years ahead of its time, customers have quickly adopted contactless communication channels like guest messaging via text, Facebook Messenger, email, WhatsApp and more, in order to adhere to new regulations and increase the feeling of safety.  With these new preferences, a digital inbox, or messaging platform with a centralized inbox will become imperative to meet the influx of digital channels. It’s important to note that we are specifically referring to an inbox that can retrieve a number of different channel types in one consolidated inbox. This will make responding easy and efficient for employees, as toggling through different tabs or windows will become daunting in an era where customers are regularly channel hopping.  Task and Ticketing Software In addition to customer facing technology, back of house, or operational software will also become an essential tool to ensure all functions are running smoothly and managers are able to keep the experience thriving. For many hotels, ticketing software may already be in place, however for the post-pandemic era, an intuitive software will be essential. Not only does an intuitive ticketing platform provide housekeeping, reception, restaurant staff and more, accountable through real-time tags and mentions, but it also ensures everyone has visibility into tasks to identify time-saving opportunities. In addition, it adheres to contactless preferences. Employees can communicate via staff collaboration software without ever having to meet - lessening the number of interactions and bolstering employee confidence.    Final Thoughts Almost everyone, in some capacity, has been affected by the COVID-19 virus. It was unprecedented and many suffered. Although adopting technologies and being hyper aware of the current situation is key, it’s also very important to be cognisant of guest feelings and unease. For the post-pandemic era, flexibility and understanding should be paramount in the new travel experience. This means taking a new stance on cancellation policies, allowing flexibility with trip modifications, actively listening to your customers, acknowledging frustrations and making a point to do better. Working hand in hand with your biggest advocates, your team, and new guests, you can strengthen your operations and propel your hotel to deliver a memorable post-pandemic guest experience.

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RoomOrders: A Simple but Powerful Digital Menu and Ordering System

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

As we transition to a post-COVID world, hospitality businesses of all types are modifying their operations for one big trend: contactless interactions. For food and beverage outlets, software that supports digital menus and online ordering makes contactless interaction easy and intuitive. In fact, this type of software can even increase your average check value and streamline your ordering and delivery processes. If you’ve never used such software before, choosing a mobile ordering platform might be overwhelming. That’s why, in this article, we’ll introduce you to the features of RoomOrders so you can decide whether it would be a good fit for your hotel, restaurant, bar, or other F&B business.   How Does RoomOrders Work? Let’s first take a look at RoomOrders from the customer’s perspective. How would a customer use it at your restaurant, and what does it look like?   Guests Scan a QR Code to Access a Digital Menu on Their Device RoomOrder is a web-based app, so customers or guests don’t need to download an actual app to access your digital menu or place an order. Instead, a customer can click a link in an email or on a webpage, or they can scan a QR code to quickly open the digital menu on their smartphone. Burton Ockerman, the Director of Restaurants at the Desmond by Doubletree in Malvern, says the QR code feature is one of RoomOrders’ best features and is very user-friendly. Once a customer has opened the digital menu, they’ll see your restaurant or hotel’s name, logo, and cover image of your choice. Menu sections are clearly defined, such as Food and Drinks. For establishments with international clientele, the RoomOrders platform supports translation into most of the world’s widely spoken languages.     Similar to what consumers see in popular apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash, RoomOrders shows guests the average delivery time to set expectations.  Hungry guests are more likely to order when they see short delivery times. The digital menu is fully customizable - from headings to badges to photos - which we’ll discuss later in the article. By default, the layout includes space for large photos, which helps to encourage customers to place orders, assuming your photography makes your menu items look extra delicious!   Mobile Ordering Makes Room Service as Easy as Hailing an Uber When a customer is ready to order, they can select a delivery time of either “now” (as soon as possible) or a date and time in the future.     To order an item, the customer simply clicks on the item they want, and a box will pop up with some additional options, which the restaurateur can configure. For example, if the customer orders a steak, they might see options like “rare,” “medium rare,” “medium,” and “well done,” so they can be confident their steak will be cooked to their liking.     After specifying the quantity and adding any special instructions, the customer will click “add to cart.” The bell icon on the top right corner takes customers to their cart, where they will enter their location (either an area of your hotel/restaurant, like the pool or lobby, or a room number), then click “complete order.”   Hoteliers can send RoomOrders a list of all room numbers so the system can validate whether the room number is valid or not. For example, if your hotel has just 8 rooms on each floor, a guest who enters room number “817” will be prompted to correct the room number before the system will let them place an order. But rooms are not the only delivery location a hotel can specify. With RoomOrders’ new beach and pool area concept, guests are able to order anywhere on the premises of the hotel, such as a table at the onsite restaurant, a deckchair or cabana on the beach or at the rooftop pool bar. Simply add location to room number, such as deckchair 12, table 6, section B, thus providing seamless ordering opportunities to the guest, wherever they are. RoomOrders can integrate with point-of-sale systems for payment, but if you don’t have a POS or choose not to integrate, customers can charge the order to their hotel room (which most RoomOrders clients opt for) or pay with cash or credit card (via Stripe, which works with Apple Pay and Google Pay).   What Functionality Can Hoteliers Expect in the RoomOrders Dashboard? The back end of the platform is where you’ll manage operations, configure your menu and settings, and analyze performance. The manager version of RoomOrder is available on your web browser, or you can download a smartphone or tablet app.   Easy to Use Order Management with No Training Required Once a customer places an order, restaurant staff will see it pop up on their Orders dashboard. New orders placed for immediate fulfillment show in “New” status, while orders scheduled for a future date will appear in the “scheduled” section. Staff must click “accept” to confirm new orders. When the order has been delivered to the customer, staff click “complete order” to move it to “Delivered” status. If necessary, staff can cancel orders from this dashboard. The dashboard shows all relevant information about the order, including the items ordered, the guest’s location, and timestamps that show when the order was placed and accepted.     Update Your Menu in Seconds - No Need to Call Tech Support Operators can customize their cover photo, profile photo, and all text content visible on their digital menu. The menu builder is packed with options, so you can create a menu that accurately communicates your brand, menu items, and photography.     You can structure the menu however you want, with flexible headings and sub-sections. A useful feature of RoomOrders is adding time frames to menu sections, which lets you control the availability of menu items that might not be available all day. For example, your breakfast menu can be available between 7am and 10am only. Menus will be visible during their off-hours, but customers cannot place orders for items that are unavailable based on the time frame. Anastasiia Horashchenko of Hilton’s Kyiv property told Hotel Tech Report, “RoomOrders has a very simple backend, which is a great feature for the current ever changing environment. We are able to be more flexible in adjusting to our guests' needs. The frontend that our guests see gives an opportunity to showcase all of our dishes and attract guests with the look of dishes they are about to order.”     It’s also possible to add special badging (the orange tags in the screenshot below) to help some menu items stand out. Badges could include “Chef’s recommendation,” “Vegan,” or “Gluten Free” text, and more.   In addition to menu titles and text, you can configure add-ons and options for each menu item. RoomOrders offers three choices for these add-ons: extras (like adding chicken or salmon to a salad for an extra charge), selection (a choice between wheat and white bread), or ingredients (if a customer wants to request no onions, for example).     Drive More Incremental Revenue By Programming Relevant Upsells Both Ockerman and Anastasiia Horashchenko, Assistant F&B Manager at Hilton Kyiv, say that the cross-sell capability is one of RoomOrders’ most powerful features. This feature allows you to suggest complementary menu items to customers who order certain dishes. For example, if a customer wants to order a pasta dish, you could suggest a glass of red wine or an order of tiramisu. Cross-selling is proven to increase average check value since many customers find the suggestions too good to pass up.     When building the cross-sell options in the RoomOrders dashboard, you choose between using your top selling items as the cross-sell items, or you can customize cross-sell items for specific dishes, like our pasta example above.   Optimize Menu Offerings with Real-Time Reporting How do you know if your average order value is growing if you can’t measure it? RoomOrders offers a slick dashboard that gives operators insight into a few key metrics: total sales, number of accepted orders, average order value, on-time percentage, and completion percentage - all of which can be seen for specific dates. The dashboard also shows a list of your most frequently ordered items, but there’s not much more information about them, like the most popular times of day for orders of certain items. “RoomOrders has been such an easy to use platform for our business especially now, during these unprecedented times. The flexibility of the software has allowed us to make changes and updates to our menu seamlessly”, says Mark Grzelak, Manager of the Fin Point Oyster Bar & Grille at the Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall.     RoomOrders lets you choose settings that make the most sense for your restaurant or bar. You can turn the gratuity field on or off, choose the default language, and configure tax categories, for example. Other settings include a post-order review request, which sends a survey to customers to request feedback, which is not shared anywhere publicly. You can also build a prompt that asks customers to share their experiences on Facebook.   RoomOrders is a Great Option for Hotels and Restaurants Looking to Go Beyond QR Code Linked PDF Menus The greatest consumer hospitality brands like Starbucks and Dominos understand the power of mobile ordering as we’ve previously covered - finally hotels are catching up.  Mobile ordering is proven to increase average order values and drive better guest experiences by delivering the level of convenience we all have at home while staying in a hotel. RoomOrders packs a lot of value into a light, user-friendly interface. The contactless interface has tangible benefits for a F&B business of any size. As Jeffrey Speelman, the Director of Operations at the Hilton Kyiv, mentions, the digital menu functionality allows his team to save time and money by not needing to print new paper menus every time they make a change to a dish or a price. Both Speelman and Horashchenko say that RoomOrders has a fantastic support team who help in every step of the onboarding process, so even less tech-savvy operators can feel confident using this new kind of software. Hilton’s Jeff Speelman told Hotel Tech Report, “the Room Orders application has options to push upselling when selecting an item which drives up the average check, as well as highlighting and showing attractive photos of dishes. Besides the fact that the volume of room service orders has significantly increased due to Covid and a price increase of approx 5% was implemented we see a significant increase in our average check.  When comparing our Average check YTD vs previous year we see an increase of 17.9%.” Mobile ordering software is a must-have technology in 2021 for hotels looking to stay ahead of the digital transformation curve and RoomOrders is a great choice for hotels and restaurants that want to deliver a user-friendly, customizable option for guests with a lot of functionality.   This content was created collaboratively by RoomOrders and Hotel Tech Report.

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4 Common Hospitality Tech Stack Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

by
Matthew Lynch
3 months ago

In the age of technology, connectivity is critical to property and brand-wide success—and it affects every aspect of rising industry trends around security and mobile payments. To find the right vendors and put the right tech in place, you need the right information. You need to know how the tech you’re looking at is going to integrate with the systems you already have in place. So before anything else, view the tech through the lens of your SOPs. What would a day in the life of your staff look like? Are there significant gaps in functionality or connectivity? If so, it’s a no-go right from the start. If not, it’s time to dig into specifics. Here are four key pitfalls for hoteliers to know and avoid in order to find success:   1. Hotels have more technology than ever—and when systems don’t communicate, the business consequences can be devastating. Between your PMS, POS, and staff collaboration tools, there’s plenty to worry about. Add in guest-facing tech and hotels can suddenly have more different solutions than time to sift through them. And if a single cog in the machine isn’t working in conjunction with other things, it can be a disaster for operations. Before signing up with a new vendor, make sure what they’re offering will integrate with the critical systems your property already uses on a daily basis. Your tech should maximize your staff’s efficiency, not add extra stress or unnecessary steps. To further ensure a quality integration, look for a vendor that builds their integrations directly. A more advanced integration is much more likely to be certified or otherwise validated by others.   2. When operations suffer due to bad integrations and siloed data, the guest experience suffers as well. When systems don’t communicate, information is either duplicated or never shared at all causing guest requests to never get fulfilled or get fulfilled twice. And this isn’t something staff can be expected to handle or track. The reality is, many simpler integrations pass less information which creates a shallow and less efficient system. Make sure you are getting integrations with depth—the more information your systems can share the better. If you want to ensure the vendor you are looking at has effective integration and consistent guest satisfaction, go to the source. Ask to speak to a customer who is currently using the integrations you need. Get your questions answered by someone who can vouch for how things affect the guest experience and day-to-day operations.   3. Security is absolutely essential to connectivity. Here’s what to watch out for on that front.  If a vendor declines a security audit, there’s a reason. A good place to start is by asking if their integrations meet industry standards from organizations like HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation) or OTA (OpenTravel Alliance). Are they directly involved with those industry organizations? And find out if they have regular security audits. No confident vendor declines a security audit. They aren’t easy for anyone, but they’re necessary and they exist for a reason. You need to know if their system is secure. Declining an audit is a huge problem and an indicator a vendor may not be all they say they are. Seasoned vendors will understand that request from the beginning.   4. Payments are among the highest levels of integration to achieve and the thing everyone wants right now. Payments are the most in-demand integration: are the vendors you’re looking at prepared? If a vendor has payments capabilities right now, that’s an indicator they’re advanced and up to speed on the latest developments in hospitality. Ask: Do they process or facilitate mobile payments—namely, do they leverage a PCI-compliant payment gateway that has authorization and settlement capabilities specifically for lodging? If they do, huge green light. If not, a little worrying. Beyond the overall importance of connectivity and how it affects trends like security and payments, buyers should be looking for a trustworthy vendor above all else, and knowing which questions to ask during the buying process plays a key role in determining that. So there you have it: those are some of the red flags you should be watching for—but what are the green flags? If you want to find a vendor partner that goes above and beyond, there are two quick things to check for: a dedicated team for integrations and a product roadmap that demonstrates ongoing commitment to innovation. If a vendor has both of those things, they’re likely not just good at what they do, but great at it. For more in-depth vendor questions, check out 10 Questions to Ask Vendors Before Your Next Purchase.  

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15 Best Online Ordering Systems for Restaurants in 2021

by
Hotel Tech Report
3 months ago

Online ordering for restaurants will continue to be a major revenue stream in 2021. In part, off-site online ordering can help you grow revenue by tapping new customers and on-site online ordering can help you grow revenue by maximizing revenue from on-premise guests.  Statistics show that Gen Z and Millennials will continue to favor online ordering long after the pandemic is over. If you’re new to online ordering, the number of platforms available to you can be overwhelming. You are likely familiar with food delivery partners UberEats or GrubHub, but there are also ordering systems that allow customers to order directly from a restaurant. In fact, those direct online food ordering tools are a win-win for both you and your customers: you get to keep the full amount from each sale, while most consumers say their preference is to order directly from a restaurant. This guide breaks down the 15 top systems for implementing online ordering at your restaurant. We break down our list into two groups: (1) on-site: these are mobile ordering solutions that can be used to order food and beverage while at a restaurant and (2) off-site: these are solutions that help restaurants take online orders from off-site patrons. From POS-specific tools to user-friendly apps, here are the platforms that can deliver the best ROI from your restaurant’s online delivery, curbside pickup, and takeaway orders in 2021.   What to Look for in a Restaurant Online Ordering System There are really three ways to implement an online ordering system at your restaurant. The first is through your restaurant’s point-of-sale (POS) system. A POS with online ordering added on will do the work of taking orders, routing them to the kitchen, and alerting the front-of-house staff when a customer or delivery person is picking up the order. Look for a POS that makes it easy to set up an ordering page through an e-commerce integration like Shopify. A second option is to see if your POS integrates with a third-party ordering app. Some POS systems won’t have native online ordering software built into the interface, but they can sync with an app for an additional cost. Upserve, Toast, and Square for Restaurants are all examples of restaurant POS systems that can accept online orders. The advantage of using this option is that there is relatively little you need to do to get set up and start accepting orders; you’ll also be able to store customer order information in one unified record, combining transaction details from in-restaurant dining with online ordering records. The last option is to use a marketplace delivery app like UberEats or Door Dash. These apps are specifically created for the restaurant industry, and can therefore be very intuitive to implement and start using. However, watch out for high fees and compatibility issues –– third-party apps can take between 10% - 30% of each sale they deliver. When evaluating which of these options is right for your restaurant, consider these variables:  Cost: third-party ordering apps and marketplace delivery apps sometimes charge a yearly subscription or take a percentage of each sale.  Visibility: third-party apps may cost more, but they offer a way to reach customers who may not know about your restaurant.  Ease-of-use: make sure whatever platform you use is intuitive for your staff and doesn’t lead to a traffic jam in the back-of-house.  Compatibility: does the solution you’re considering integrate with your existing system? Customer loyalty: a marketplace app may give you visibility, but it comes with the disadvantage of not giving you much customer information that can be used in marketing to increase loyalty.  Customer experience: how easy is it for a guest to browse your menu, make a selection, request modifications, and pay? An online ordering system may seem like a big investment, but it’s one that will continue to bring in revenue well beyond the pandemic. By some estimates, restaurant delivery sales could rise an annual average of more than 20% to $365 billion worldwide by 2030. With these factors in mind, here are the ten best online ordering systems for restaurants in 2021.   Best Online Ordering Systems for Restaurants in 2021 (On-Site) Here are our picks for the best POS apps and integrations for hotel restaurants in 2021. These platforms help restaurants facilitate online orders at physical locations - think bars, restaurants, hotel room service, poolside, etc.  As you explore these solutions you may also want to review our in-depth guide to mobile ordering software.   Bbot Smart Ordering Bbot’s online ordering system works for just about any type of food business - take-out, delivery, in-venue dining, catering, and more. The system is fully web-based, and operators can upload, edit, and add branding to their digital menus from the dashboard. Customers can order in-venue or off-premise with a few taps on their smartphones, and payment is processed securely without the need for physical credit cards or paper receipts. Bbot supports NFC payments, ApplePay, GooglePay, and QR codes. The app charges a monthly subscription fee, but businesses can sign up for a free trial before committing.   RoomOrders Designed for hotels and resorts, RoomOrders offers a cloud-based ordering and payment platform that works not only for F&B outlets, but also for pools, golf courses, gift shops, and other vendors. Operators can configure their menus or catalogs on the RoomOrders dashboard for easy viewing and ordering from anywhere - on- or off-premise. Customers or guests on-site can access the menu by scanning a QR code or tapping their smartphones on an NFC tag. RoomOrders charges a $50 monthly fee per venue plus a 1-5% fee per transaction, though transaction fees at additional venues within the same property are a flat 1%.   ServeSafely (by Crave) This online ordering and payment system is suitable for all kinds of F&B venues, from restaurants and bars to concert venues and nightclubs. ServeSafely optimizes revenue and profitability with upsell features, customizable menus, and tools to boost sales of higher-margin menu items. In addition, ServeSafely complies with GDPR marketing permissions so operators can use customer contact information to generate repeat sales and loyalty. Guests can access menus by scanning QR codes, and payment is completely contactless with ApplePay or Google Pay. As a bonus, users say that Crave’s customer support team is helpful and responsive. ServeSafely charges an implementation fee plus a monthly service fee.   SABA F&B Ordering SABA’s web-based ordering app allows guests to browse digital menus and place orders from anywhere. Operators can create menus that are easily editable, contain upsell offers, and support multiple languages. Guests can access the app by scanning a QR code or clicking a link on the property’s website or social media pages, and operators have the option to embed the app on in-room tablets or existing hotel apps. Besides F&B, hoteliers can also configure the app to place minibar orders and housekeeping requests. SABA charges a monthly fee, and a 30-day free trial is available to try before you buy.   Flexkeeping Though it was originally created as a housekeeping system and staff communication platform, Flexkeeping’s software can flex to a variety of needs and situations. The app’s room service module lets hoteliers digitize their in-room dining operations, from ordering to analytics. Hoteliers can create digital menus, configure instant notifications for staff, and see real-time order status. Flexkeeping also gives operators insight into their most popular dishes, order times, and total order volume, and it has integrations with popular property management systems such as Mews. From a guest’s perspective, the ordering process is quick and easy. Flexkeeping offers a 30-day free trial; after the trial, the software comes with a monthly subscription fee.    Best Online Ordering Systems for Restaurants in 2021 (Food Delivery, Off-Site) Clover Online Ordering Clover Online Ordering enables your restaurant to start taking online orders through two options: a Clover-powered web page created for you or the Clover app, or through The The.Ordering.app. Clover does the heavy lifting to get you set up with an online menu, increasing your visibility to customers, firing orders to the kitchen, and sending alerts when an order is ready for pickup. A key benefit to Clover Online Ordering is that it also keeps track of customer information: add reward, promo, and customer feedback programs to reward your loyal fans. The drawback to Clover Online Ordering is that you do need a Clover POS device (Station, Station Pro, Mini, and Flex) connected to a printer. It may not be the best solution if you’re not already using this technology. There are no fees associated with Clover’s ordering services, and Clover is waiving The Ordering.app fee of 1.5% per order is until January 1, 2021.   Chownow Online Ordering Chownow is commission-free, making it a good bet for restaurants looking to maximize revenue for each sale. Chownow is a third-party ordering app that integrates with your POS system and offers many options for capturing online orders. Get a branded mobile app for your restaurant, or give customers the ability to order straight from your website (rather than through a third-party like GrubHub). Integrations with Yelp, Instagram, and Google serve to increase your restaurant’s visibility and boost orders quickly. Chownow charges a flat subscription fee of $99 - $150 per month, depending on which features you use. That can be expensive, but note that Chownow also offers configurations for in-restaurant and curbside pickup, expanding your restaurant’s ability to serve customers with ease.   Toast POS Toast is similar to Clover, in that online ordering is only available through the Toast POS system. That said, Toast is built for restaurants and comes with tons of features to help you save – boosting both revenue and profit margins in the process. The company reports that restaurants save an average of $36,000 per year with Toast Online Ordering. This is due to a wide selection of built-in features, including a loyalty program, the ability to create and accept gift cards, and inventory management for your restaurant – in addition to online ordering. Toast offers a free calculator to help you estimate how much your restaurant could be saving by switching to their online ordering system. Like Chownow, Toast is subscription-based and does not charge a commission per sale. However, you do need to factor in the costs of switching to their POS hardware in addition to software fees.   FreshBytes FreshBytes is designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses – and it offers the same powerful features from which large chain restaurants benefit. “Applauded as one of the simplest and fastest emerging online ordering platforms in the times of COVID-19, FreshBytes offers branded, mobile-friendly, and commission-free services with fully integrated online ordering features — premium website designs, social media ordering, one-touch reordering, print kitchen tickets, consultative onboarding, 24/7 customer support, and smart messaging,” writes one reviewer. FreshBytes also stands out for its focus on the customer experience. Features like menu item photos and one-touch reordering make it extremely user-friendly. It also allows for catering orders, a great feature for hotel restaurants. Pricing starts at $89 per month.   GloriaFood If you’re looking for a holdover solution to offer online ordering only until the pandemic is over, GloriaFood might be the right solution for your restaurant. If you already have a website, and just need an integration to accept orders try GloriaFood. It provides a "See MENU & Order" or "Table reservation" widget to your website to make the online ordering process fast & easy. The best part: the basic system is completely free. Accept unlimited orders for pickup or delivery without paying any commission – nor are there setup fees or hidden costs. You may need to pay for “upgrades” – essential features like accepting credit cards – but overall, this is a low-cost solution that can tide your restaurant over until in-restaurant dining returns.   MenuDrive MenuDrive offers all the basic features of online ordering with a focus on marketing. “MenuDrive is a great option for restaurants that want to create a branded ordering experience on their website. Users are able to customize their POS and online ordering system by sending their menu, product photos, and other branding materials to MenuDrive, who then puts it all together,” says one reviewer.   It not only offers a way to customize your online branding, but automated email campaigns and integrated marketing services help your restaurant build a dedicated customer base. The downside is that MenuDrive can be a little more expensive: the basic plan starts at $99 per month per location along with a $99 one-time setup fee. They also a 3.5% credit card processing fee + 15¢ per transaction.    Upserve Upserve is a nice option if your restaurant is a cafe or coffee kiosk: its restaurant management system has options for bars, wineries, coffee shops and bakeries. Upserve integrates with other online ordering marketplaces, like Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar, and UberEats, giving you the best of both worlds – a fully-branded ordering experience, and the visibility of a third-party delivery partner. This ordering system also gives you analytics so you can track your restaurant’s performance and made adjustments for higher guest satisfaction scores.  Upserve also offers a POS system and plenty of other restaurant management tools. Plans start at $59 per month with $60 per additional terminal.    Square for Restaurants  Like Clover, Square for Restaurants’ online ordering tool requires the use of the Square Terminal and Kitchen Display System (KDS). If you already have those tools, online ordering by Square is streamlined and efficient. No matter through which channel an order comes – Postmates, UberEats, or Chowly – the kitchen receives the order in one easy interface. There are a few options for how you choose to configure the order flow, too. Online ordering is part of Square for Restaurants, which is offered in three pricing tiers. If you already have Square for Restaurants, it’s easy to simply enable delivery services through your dashboard.   The Ordering.App It was only a matter of time before Google started to get involved in restaurant online ordering. The Ordering.App is Google’s online ordering tool. A key benefit of the Ordering.app is that it allows customers to order right from your website, Google Search, Google Maps and more. This gives your restaurant great visibility and reach, and decreases the number of steps a customer has to complete to send an order to your restaurant. It integrates with both Square and Clover, and also comes as an app that you can download straight to your tablet or mobile device. The Ordering.App is affordable: no setup fees or subscription costs, and right now through March 30, 2021 The Ordering.app is waiving its 1.5% per order fee to help support restaurants during the pandemic.   Restolabs Restolabs is another popular option that offers easy setup and 0% commission. A nice feature is Facebook ordering, in which customers browse your menu and use the Restolabs widget to order straight through your social media page. Pricing starts at $45 per month.    For more on restaurant ordering systems, download our free Guide to Mobile Ordering and Room Service Software for 2021.  

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Using Contactless Channels To Enter a New Era of Running a Hotel

by
Sandra Holland
4 months ago

Since the advent of the pandemic, and well before it, contactless channels have garnered tremendous attention as a safe, efficient and effective way for hotels to communicate with their guests. In fact, today around 70% of hotels are already planning to adopt contactless technology for check-in, food ordering, concierge services and more. With its immense potential for the future of hotel operations and its rapid growth in guest preference, it’s no wonder why hoteliers are fast to adopt it. In this article, we’re exploring contactless communication and how it has become a necessary consideration when entering a new era of hospitality.   The State of Hotel Communication Today Over the past 10 years, how hotels interact with their guests has changed greatly. The rise of COVID-19 not only pivoted many communication strategies, but accelerated the pace in which we adopt new digital forms of contact such as apps, social media platforms, and more. As a matter of fact, in a recent survey, consumers highlighted the desire for contactless payments (35%), digital room keys (26%) and digital messaging services (20%) as the top three changes that would make them feel more comfortable staying in a hotel. With the demand for new efficient communication channels progressing, the need for hoteliers to invest and evolve their digital programs becomes critical.   Contactless Channels on The Rise  Within hospitality, apps are undoubtedly one of the most influential contactless channels to adopt. In a Hotel Management 2020 report, 62 percent of respondents said they would prefer to use contactless check in (and out) through a hotel app. In addition 80 percent of respondents said they would download a hotel app that would allow them to check in, check out and get all information about the hotel. With an app, consumers can easily navigate the hotel experience (without face to face contact), whether it be by communicating directly with a staff member or mobile ordering something on-demand. Social media channels also hold a promising role in communication. According to “Statista, in the second quarter of 2018 the total number of social media users was 3.297 billion people worldwide, which corresponds to a penetration rate of 43% in a total market of 4.087 billion internet users.” Social channels have tremendous reach and cater to a wide variety of individuals. Using these channels, you can personalize the experience by getting a glimpse of guest social profiles, leverage automation features and send feedback surveys to better understand your guests. What’s more, social media isn’t segmented by geography, so hotels with greater international guests can utilize these channels to engage worldwide. Lastly, email and SMS will continue to rise in adoption. As two traditional channels that are already leveraged by a wide array of hotels for booking confirmations, itineraries, and post-stay follow ups it’s important to leverage both of these channels, in conjunction with more engaging channels, when communicating with guests.   How Contactless Can Benefit Your Hotel Streamline booking and ordering.  For hotels, contactless channels not only enhance the guest experience but also streamline hotel operations. According to Travel & Tourism Analyst, Ralph Hollister, it’s reported “in 2021, hotels will increase their adoption of technology that will reduce the number of touchpoints. Abilities such as online check-ins and check-outs, mobile keys and room settings controlled by Internet of Things (IoT) technology will become much more commonplace.” In this, administrative tasks such as booking and ordering will become much more streamlined. As an example, if a hotel has an app, dine-in ordering can be done through on-demand navigation. Customers can simply browse the dinner menu, click on their desired order and pay all from their personal device. From an operation standpoint, the whole process is automated, the order goes directly to the kitchen and management has direct access to the data from guest orders. Greater Customer Retention.  As proven through the aforementioned statistics, contactless communication is a growing guest preference that can make or break the experience. By adopting contactless communication, you show your guests that you listen to their opinions and implement their preferences - which can come with a number of benefits. Aside from staying safe, by adopting guest desires, you increase the likelihood of greater satisfaction, improve upsell, encourage greater conversation, and of course, improve retention rates. What’s more, adapting to common preferences ensures you meet new customer demands as well. Insight for improved experiences. Using contactless channels, hotels can obtain insight that can’t be captured with face to face conversations. This can help tailor individual discussions, but also the experience as a whole. By referring back to conversations with guests, you can obtain insights such as: preferred communication channels, trending topics of conversation, busiest times of day, top performing employees, average response time, best performing touchpoints and so on. By utilizing this insight you can adjust experiences in real-time and allocate time and resources to specific areas of your business to ensure a satisfied stay.   Technology Paving the Way  It goes without saying that utilizing contactless channels within your hotel has tremendous benefits for both your guests and your hotel operations. However, managing these channels and gathering data in an effective and efficient manner can be complex, especially without the right technology. For many, utilizing a channel management system, or an automated experience platform can be the turning point for a successful contactless communication strategy. In fact, according to International Hospitality Review’s latest research, “a touchless, adaptable and customizable automation platform featuring all front-office operations and answering particular business requirements could be a solution that the industry needs post-Covid-19.” Having the right technology in place can be a game changer for hotels, whether for managing communication or gathering data. That said, regardless if an added technology is in the cards for your hotel, contactless communication should be a strong consideration. Adding convenience for customers and relieving employees of added work, it’s a massive tool and for entering a new era as a hotelier.   

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The Future of Hotel Apps: Why Mobile Payments Are Essential

by
Dan Lacey
5 months ago

When you look at the future of hospitality tech, it’s very clear that everything revolves around one thing: mobile. Everyone’s on their phone all the time, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Over the last year, features like mobile check-in and mobile key have become more important to hotel apps than anyone could have imagined, both in the context of the pandemic world and the future that lies beyond it. Yet as important as that tech is, there’s another hotel app feature that may eventually become even more important. Contactless payments.    In April 2020, Mastercard released a stunning study based on online interviews of over 17,000 global consumers. They found over 88% of consumers had adopted some form of contactless payment technology—and 74% planned to continue using it post-pandemic. At the same time, mobile purchases went up in nearly every sector, and made up 73% of all e-commerce sales last year. And it’s not just the pandemic. People have also never been more worried about fraud and information security, and mobile payments are simply safer to use than cash or credit cards.    All of this to say...mobile purchases and contactless payments are already a force to be reckoned with and will only gain more traction as time goes on. They represent a new way of life that’s impacting every industry. So, what does that mean for hoteliers? If you’re not prepared to process mobile purchases and contactless payments, you’re missing out on huge revenue potential—something most properties and brands simply can’t afford to do in this rebuilding phase.    That being said, hotels are in a uniquely strong position to embrace mobile payment technology. First, other industries like restaurants and retail have already mastered mobile payments and offer a roadmap to success that hoteliers can follow. But most importantly, all mobile payments and orders should also be processed through the systems you already know and trust—meaning you shouldn’t need to retrain staff or reconcile financials from multiple systems.    That’s because what hoteliers need to harness the revenue-generating potential of mobile isn’t really a new payment technology. Sure, you may eventually want a few new credit card terminals, but for now, guest technology can do the heavy lifting. Guests are asking for a way to check-in and out, order food, and make purchases during their stay from their phone—and on that front, it’s an app provider’s responsibility to work with a property’s PMS and POS vendors to ensure they can facilitate mobile payments, not yours.    What hoteliers need to know about mobile payments can be boiled down to this: they will become one of the single most important mobile app features—if not the most important—within the next few years. And they should add convenience for tech-savvy guests and extra revenue for your property, not more complexity for you. If a vendor tries to tell you differently, that’s a red flag.